What is Word Mapping?
One of the latest buzz words in the reading world: word mapping!
These words are everywhere these days (although the process has been around for a long time), but just what the heck do they mean?
To put it simply, word mapping is like a GPS for your reading brain.
You take a word: light, and break it down to its simplest parts.
(Since my “boxes” are not showing up, let’s imagine that there are lines/boxes around each letter or set of letters – wherever you see a space!)
You put each of those simple parts (ie: sounds/phonemes) into their own box, and then the word is considered mapped.
Think of 1:1 correspondence from the math world: each box represents one sound.
Why Should I Teach Word Mapping?
You might have heard that word mapping aligns with the science of reading, which makes you think that you should be using it.
And while that’s true, let’s think about why word mapping aligns with the science of reading.
Word mapping is more than just breaking words into sounds and then putting those sounds in boxes.
Here’s just a few of the good reasons to teach word mapping
- You’re strengthening their phonemic awareness skills. We all know how important phonemic awareness is to reading. Word mapping helps to make that connection between what is heard and what is seen. This ultimately helps with spelling of words!
- You’re helping to develop automaticity in reading and spelling. Take your phonetic spellers to the next level! It’s exciting to watch young writers use their skills and spell words correctly.
- Word mapping actually helps improve word recognition and store it into long term memory. How amazing is that?!
How Does it Work?
We know what it is. We know why we should teach it. Now…how do you do it?
Like anything else, we can make this really complicated, or we can keep it simple.
Draw out boxes for each sound in the word.
Remember, there is one box per sound, not one box per letter.
If there is a silent letter (think silent e) you’ll leave the box open.
Here are some examples word mapping with varying different phonics skills:
Silent e (VCe)
When Should I Use Word Mapping?
I know, that sounds like a lot when you haven’t done it all. 😳
But like phonemic awareness, you only need to practice for a few minutes each day to make a difference.
Map those words daily!
Your young readers will grow like crazy with consistent word mapping.
What phonics skills are you teaching today?
Make a list of words with that skill and map away!
Remember, this is strengthening their decoding and encoding skills.
It’s vital to reading and writing, and deserves a few minutes of your time every time you practice phonics.
Free Word Mapping Activities
While there are word mapping resources out there (like this fun word map with a word search!), know that you can don’t need anything other than a piece of paper and a pencil to word map!
You can draw your own boxes, or fold paper to create boxes.
Then use a pencil (or a crayon) to write the graphemes (letters) in the boxes.
Here are some word mapping ideas with supplies you likely already have in your classroom (or home)!
Use sticky notes to represent each box.
Give each student a small pile of sticky notes. (The 1.5 X 2 in ones are the perfect size.)
They can write each sound on a different sticky note.
Paint Sample Strips
Grab some paint sample strips from the hardware store! Each color can represent a box. How fun!
Use an index card. You can fold it to make as many boxes as you need for the words.
Word Mapping Resources
Seeing as students benefit from word mapping on a daily basis, I’ve created a few resources that incorporate word mapping.
Teachers and students are raving about these word mapping word searches! Students must map the word before finding it in the word search.
They’re available for every skill, and come in a money-saving bundle, too!Click HERE for the Word Mapping Word Searches on Teachers Pay Teachers!
Because word mapping is a science-based way to strengthen encoding and decoding skills, I knew I had to incorporate it into these phonics and reading intervention pages.Click HERE for the Phonics Intervention Minis on Teachers Pay Teachers
Word Mapping High Frequency Words
Did you know that many high frequency words are actually decodable?
Heart Words is a method that combines phonics with high frequency words. Have you heard of it?
Click here to read all about heart words and how to teach them!
Hi Lauren! When the instructions say, “Tap, Map and Graph,” on your phonics intervention page, what is the difference between mapping and graphing, or are those done basically at the same time?
I have students tap with their fingers/on their arm (segmenting the sounds), then “map” – point to each box and say the letter that would go in it, then “graph” – finally write it down. I hope that helps!
Can you explain more about silent e as it relates to word-mapping? I thought it was not supposed to get its own box (or sticky note, or whatever …). I did see that one of the sticky notes had an asterisk on it. Just wondering as this seems to conflict with other ways I’ve learned to do word-mapping.
People do it different ways: either no box or an open box at the top. (I’ll add a picture from one of my resources that shows the e in an open box.) I hope that helps!